If you’re like many people in the U.S., you’ve worked from home at least partially over the past couple of years, and during that time, you probably got used to hanging with your furry co-workers – your pets. While some workers appreciate having their fur babies around while working remotely, they may not feel the same way about working with other people’s pets in the office.
Allowing pets in the workplace comes with its own set of advantages and drawbacks. Like most variables in life, whether it’s a good or bad idea to allow pets in the workplace depends on the people and the environment. If you’re considering allowing pets in the workplace, weigh these pros and cons carefully to find a policy that works for you.
The benefits of allowing pets in the workplace
In most cases, allowing pets to come to work really means dogs – in fact, June 24 is National Take Your Dog to Work Day – but some companies welcome cats, birds and other animals. Here are some of the top benefits of permitting employees to bring pets to work.
1. It can be great for employee recruitment and retention.
Pet adoption exploded during the pandemic, and people seem to really love their new fur babies. Banfield Pet Hospital surveyed new pet owners and found that 76% would prefer spending time with their pet over their partner, friends or family. New pet ownership has caused more workers to evaluate the need for pet-related employee benefits, so it’s not surprising that allowing pets in the workplace can be a great way to improve recruitment and retention, especially among younger workers.
The desire to bring pets to work is a growing trend among millennial and Gen Z employees. If they are allowed to bring their dogs to work, for example, they save on doggy daycare fees and may be more willing to stay late, since they’re not rushing home to attend to their pets.
Research from Veterinarians.org found that 67% of pet owners said they’d consider it a reason to quit their job if their employer stopped offering remote work, but 78% of those same respondents said they would consider staying with their company if they were allowed to bring their dog to the office.
2. It can improve company morale.
Businesses that allow furry or feathered friends to come to work with employees tend to have creative, open working environments. It helps when the corporate culture emphasizes its employees’ experiences at work. Allowing pets at work can signify to your staff that you care about them, which can make them feel happier in the workplace.
3. It can facilitate employee bonding, which motivates good work.
Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a co-worker if there is a pet around to break the ice. Having animals around has been shown to facilitate interactions between employees who wouldn’t normally venture outside their comfort zones. This can eventually lead to increased collaboration, teamwork and innovation. Additionally, employees tend to have greater compassion and understanding for their co-workers when they have a personal bond with them.
4. It can improve employee health.
Having furry friends around can have positive effects on employees’ well-being. For starters, it requires employees to get up from their desks to walk or play with their pets, which is good for employees’ physical health. It can also improve employees’ mental health by reducing stress. Reducing employee stress should be a priority for employers, as it can improve workplace safety. Less stress often leads to fewer stress-related injuries and illnesses, thus reducing the accompanying healthcare costs.
5. It can prevent employee burnout.
Pets are known to make people happy, and they can ultimately help to avoid employee burnout. It is easy for employees to dive into their work for hours on end without taking any breaks. Having their pets (or co-workers’ pets) there can remind them to take occasional breaks, allowing them to mentally reset before continuing with their workday. This can reduce the potential for employee burnout.
Allowing pets in the workplace is only one way to reduce the chances of employee burnout. If your staff is being overworked, check out these 10 additional ways to prevent employee burnout.
Reasons not to allow pets in the workplace
Although there are several benefits of allowing pets in the workplace, it’s not always a viable option. Here are some reasons you may not want to allow your team to bring pets to work.
1. Employees may have allergies or a fear of animals.
The presence of an animal could understandably cause a true threat to someone’s well-being and sense of safety. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergies can be considered official disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As such, they should be respected and accommodated in the workplace. Before you allow animals in the workplace, be sure to survey your employees to establish whether there are allergies to consider.
2. It may not be conducive to a safe or sanitary work environment.
There are certain industries that can’t permit employee animals due to sanitation or safety reasons – for example, if the workplace needs to be sterile. You wouldn’t want a shedding dog in a laboratory or a cafe, or anywhere sterile supplies, meals or manufactured products are made or packaged.
Similarly, noisy or hazardous work environments are not appropriate for on-site pets. For example, construction sites, machining facilities and mining operations can be very loud and disturbing to pets – not to mention that it’s dangerous for animals to be wandering loose and potentially getting injured.
3. It may be distracting or otherwise curb productivity.
It may seem contradictory, considering we said pets in the workplace can improve employee bonding, morale and motivation – but letting Fido run around the office can also be distracting and detrimental to overall productivity. This is especially true for employees who have noisy or energetic pets that require much attention, although even the most docile animals require care, supervision, and breaks for relieving themselves.
The occasional pet break can be great for overall productivity and well-being, but when too much time is taken up by animal breaks, their presence might be counterproductive.
4. It may increase your legal liability.
Animals in the workplace come with increased responsibility and liability. You may be held responsible for personal injury or property damage done by employees’ pets, or even the pets of customers who bring them into your place of business. And let’s face it: Even the most docile animals can attack people or other pets or destroy property.
5. Your office landlord may not allow it.
Regardless of your personal views on employee pets in the workplace, you may be limited by the rules of your office space. Some businesses might actually embrace and really desire having friendly, fun animals around to brighten everyone’s day, but the building they’re in might restrict the presence of animals. Always check with your building owner before allowing pets to roam the halls.
Tips for allowing pets in the workplace
Whether you allow pets in the workplace will depend on a number of factors, including all of the points made above. First, see if it’s a legally viable option. If it is, survey your staff on their thoughts about allowing furry friends in the office. Your staff and company culture will play a large role in this decision.
If you’ve decided to allow pets in the workplace, draft a comprehensive pet policy that outlines what is and isn’t permitted in the workplace. This policy can include details such as animal types, temperaments, hygiene and behavior rules (e.g., pets must be housebroken), and office etiquette.
Be sure to provide each employee with your policy, and go over the consequences of noncompliance (for example, what happens if someone’s pet becomes too distracting or frightening to others?). As with any workplace policy, you should review your pet policy at least once a year to keep it up to date with your office needs.
Kim Tracy Prince contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.